High Hard One (1920)

“‘Chick is a pretty good sticker, but Bill threw two high hard ones and the best Chick could do was foul ’em.’” Charles J. Doyle (quoting Kansas City manager Alex McCarthy), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 6, 1920, p11

Previous earliest use (Dickson Baseball Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2009):
1ST USE. 1928 (The New York Times, Oct. 7; Edward J. Nichols). 

  • NOTE: The Dictionary defines this as “A powerful fastball that comes in high in the strike zone.” The earliest uses of this term, in the 1880s, referred to a hard-hit fly ball. Beginning in the 1910s, it was used to refer to a fastball thrown near a batter’s head. In the 1920s it began to also be used to refer more generally to high fastballs, often ones that batters swung at and missed for strikes though it is not clear if these pitches were in the strike zone. The sense of a hard-hit fly ball eventually faded, though it was used occasionally as late at the 1920s. The second use of the term, for a fastball thrown near a batter’s head, continues to be used and may, in fact, be more common than the sense of a fastball high in the strike zone. EXTENDED USE: An action intended to get someone’s attention, to move them off of a political or philosophical position, or dissuade them from a particular action.

Earlier examples of other meanings:

Hard-hit fly ball
— “…. the Captain retired the ex-champions by catching his third fly, a high, hard one from Van Haltren’s bat.” Detroit Free Press, July 28, 1888, p8

Fastball thrown high and inside
— “‘Ten or 12 years ago the best pitchers in the country were the high ball twirlers,’ said [Frank] Chance today. ‘It was the aim of every pitcher to throw the ball just a little under the batter’s chin. That kind of pitching was effective, but the batters have been looking at that high, hard one for so many years that it no longer has any terrors for them.” The Oregon Sunday Journal, March 19, 1916, p18 (Pacific News Service) 

Examples of extended use:

— “In his Miami speech, Dwight Eisenhower ‘rared back and gave ’em his high hard one,’ as Dizzy Dean used to say.” Des Moines Register, September 4, 1952, p12

“Former president Harry S. Truman threw a high hard one at Johnson last week. What HST said in effect was: Get off it, Lyndon, and do something about high interest rates before another recession destroys all.” Lyle Wilson, Spokane Chronicle, September 5, 1966, p4 (UPI wire service article)

— “The East Granby Democratic Town Committee threw a high hard one at Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz on Thursday when he questioned her qualifications to run for attorney general.” Kevin Rennie, Hartford Courant, January 17, 2010, pC03